Scenes from the Heartland by Donna Baier Stein (review)

Do you guys have any hobbies (other than reading of course!) that you love?

I’ve been a doodler since I was little, it was a big reason I went to art school and pursued a career in design. I’ve always had a love of art and culture and was thrilled to receive this book of short stories based on lithographs by the beloved artist Thomas Hart Benton.


“Here, the pictures found their storyteller.”


I immediately pulled out all my college art books to have the paintings vividly brought to life around me, to supplement the beautiful imagery that is also provided throughout the book, as I read these incredible stories Donna Baier Stein has dreamed up. She fabricates the most vivid narratives to paint a picture of what life was like in the early 1900’s midwest – they come to life before our eyes and transport us to a time of racial inequality, war and suffering, poverty and illness.

How often have you seen a painting or a sculpture and wish you know the story behind it? You can search a portraits eyes and wish for a glint of what is going on in their mind, or wonder about a composition and what the artist was thinking as they compiled their thoughts and visions to canvas? These 9 stories, based on 9 of Benton’s lithographs transports you right into the heart of the art, and you’ll want to stay there.

This collection warmed my artist heart and also made me realize how art can be so subjective and personal. And also how different life was back then, but how all the struggles seem all too familiar present day.

Huge thanks to Suzy Approved Book Tours and Donna Baier Stein for the complimentary book to review! You can get your own copy on Amazon here!


  • Paperback: 154 pages
  • Publisher: Serving House Books (March 31, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1947175106
  • ISBN-13: 978-1947175105


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About the Book:

When a contemporary writer turns her imagination loose inside the images of an iconic artist of the past, the result is storytelling magic at its best. Here are nine tales that bring to vivid life the early decades of the 20th century as witnessed by one of America’s most well-known painters. Thomas Hart Benton sketched fiddlers and farm wives, preachers and soldiers, folks gathering in dance halls and tent meetings. Though his lithographs depict the past, the real-life people he portrayed face issues that are front and center today: corruption, women’s rights, racial inequality. In these stories we enter the imagined lives of Midwesterners in the late 1930s and early 1940s. A mysterious woman dancing to fiddle music makes one small gesture of kindness that helps heal the rift of racial tensions in her small town. A man leaves his childhood home after a tragic accident and becomes involved with the big-time gamblers who have made Hot Springs, Arkansas, their summer playground. After watching her mother being sent to an insane asylum simply for grieving over a miscarriage, a girl determines to never let any man have any say over her body.Then as now, Americans have struggled with poverty, illness, and betrayal. These fictions reveal our fellow countrymen and women living with grace and strong leanings toward virtue, despite the troubles that face them.



About Donna:

Donna.jpgDonna Baier Stein is the author of The Silver Baron’s Wife (PEN/New England Discovery Award, Bronze Winner Foreword reviews 2017 Book of the Year in General Fiction and Finalist Historical Fiction, and Finalist in Paterson Prize for Fiction), Sympathetic People (Iowa Fiction Award Finalist and 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist in Short Fiction), and Sometimes You Sense the Difference (poetry chapbook). She was a Founding Editor of Bellevue Literary Review and founded and publishes Tiferet Journal. She has received a Scholarship from Bread Loaf, a Fellowship from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, four Pushcart nominations, runnerup status from the 2017 Saturday Evening Post fiction contest, and prizes from the Allen Ginsberg Awards and elsewhere. Her writing has appeared in Writer’s Digest, Virginia Quarterly Review, New York Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Confrontation, Gargoyle, and many other journals and anthologies. Donna was also an award-winning copywriter for Smithsonian, Time, World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and many other clients in the direct marketing industry.



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